Henry RollinsI’ve waited a long time to see Henry Rollins. I was first put onto Rollins by my friend Joe Gallo when I was 17. It was the last summer of high school before I went to Uni and Rollins, his writings and music, made up a big part of that summer of discovery. And since that time, I’ve been a closet fan. I’ll admit I never went out of my way to track down his stuff, but somehow Rollins and I have always managed to cross paths, and I’ve always appreciated what I’ve come across. And so it seems odd that for someone who had given me so much inspiration, that I have never seen Rollins live.

Finally last Friday night I was able rectify things. Rollins hit town in his latest one man show Provoked, and it was everything I expected it to be. It was filled with all the trademarks that I was expecting from a Henry Rollins show: The muscular frame, the rapid fire staccato delivery, the caustic wit that occasionally overflows into a righteous anger, all of which is tempered by Rollins own sense of place and performance. He is funny and wise and political in a way that for once doesn’t make you feel bad for having your own opinions. 

What was most gratifying was the breadth of Rollins’ experience and the humanity he exposed during his performance. He talks and tells stories. He invites his audience into his world to show them the humanity he has experienced since he last visited us, highlighting the idiocies of the War on Terror and the simple beauty to be found in places such as Islamabad, Damascus and Beirut.  And this makes for a great performance.

Though what surprised me the most was not Rollins showing us his portrait of the Angry Man, (which is, as he will freely admit, of a different time and place) but that the portrait he shows us in Provoked is of Rollins as the wise man, a man keen to share his observations with us. In some ways Provoked reminded me of the wisdom and gravitas that made the late Johnny Cash’s American recordings so great. And it was this humanity and vulnerability in Rollins’ show that surprised and impressed me greatly.  I will admit that my hesitation in seeing Rollins live all these years has probably been about not wanting to be hit in the face by a man expelling his anger, but after seeing this show I realise that that Rollins is only the facet of a greater man.

Provoked moves along at Rollins’ customary speed and changes pace and direction at the drop of a hat. It is a long show (on the night I saw it, it ran for 3 and a half hours) but I suspect that the nature of Rollins as a performer will mean that every show will differ in theme, topic and rhythm, as dictated by the man’s moods. This is a great thing, as audiences will get a different show every night but one that will always highlight Rollins great skill as a stage storyteller (in the vein of Mark Twain), and it’s for this reason that you should experience Rollins live at least once. I don’t know why I waited so long. 

Henry Rollins

Venue: Comedy Theatre | 240 Exhibition Street
Dates: 18, 19 & 21 Apr 2008
Price: $52.50
Bookings: Ticketek 132 849 | www.ticketek.com.au

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